Biography of Maya Angelou
(born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928) was an American author and poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.
Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List.
With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou's work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally. Some of her more controversial work has been challenged or banned in US schools and libraries.
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Maya Angelou Poems
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may tread me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise.
The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends
Lying, thinking Last night How to find my soul a home Where water is not thirsty
Touched By An Angel
We, unaccustomed to courage exiles from delight live coiled in shells of loneliness until love leaves its high holy temple
I've got the children to tend The clothes to mend The floor to mop The food to shop
When I was young, I used to Watch behind the curtains As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men. Young men sharp as mustard.
I keep on dying again. Veins collapse, opening like the Small fists of sleeping Children.
Your skin like dawn Mine like musk One paints the beginning
Give me your hand Make room for me to lead and follow
Million Man March Poem
The night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark, And the walls have been steep.
Beloved, In what other lives or lands Have I known your lips Your Hands
They Went Home
They went home and told their wives, that never once in all their lives, had they known a girl like me, But... They went home.
There are some nights when sleep plays coy, aloof and disdainful. And all the wiles
Momma Welfare Roll
Her arms semaphore fat triangles, Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips Where bones idle under years of fatback And lima beans.
They Went Home
They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.
They said my house was licking clean,
no word I spoke was ever mean,
I had an air of mystery,
But... They went home.